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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

The Perfect Time to Adopt?

By John W. Kennedy
Dec. 13, 2013

One Sunday morning in September 2009, Larry Hurt experienced a 20-second vision while worshipping at Harvestime Assembly of God in Eau Claire, Wis. With his eyes closed, Hurt saw in his mind a picture of him carrying boy and girl twins from Ethiopia.

Hurt didn’t immediately embrace the vision, which he knew meant caring for the babies. In fact, he didn’t mention the episode to his wife, Tammy.

Although the Harvestime AG deacon understood God had planted a seed in his heart, Hurt didn’t feel ready to take on two additional children in the household. The family already included five children, then ranging in age from 13 to 20, as well as a developmentally disabled woman in her early 60s.

Hurt vowed to pray about the situation, but he already had compiled objections to the idea. As with many American Christians, Hurt had plotted a more relaxing timeline for middle age. Retirement didn’t include engaging with children full time.

He prayed God would confirm His plans and leave no doubt about the vision.

“I was not ready at my age to adopt,” Hurt recalls. “But over a six-month period, God changed the course of my life. I had to get my will in line with God’s.”

The first indicator came in November 2009. Hurt, a pharmaceutical sales representative since 1991, ran into a colleague at the New Orleans airport. Although Hurt never had conversed in depth with Bob Berres before, this time the business acquaintance began gushing about a baby he and his wife had just adopted from China. Hurt asked him why he adopted, and Berres exclaimed, “God commands us to take care of orphans!”    

In February 2010, out of the blue, Tammy mentioned to her husband that if they ever decided to adopt, perhaps God might provide them with twins. During her first pregnancy in 1987, Tammy lost twins, and nearly died herself in emergency surgery.

Larry then told Tammy about his vision that had occurred six months earlier. Agreeing they needed to act upon God’s leading, the couple rapidly became certified adoptive parents through the state.

The Hurts worked with Lifeline Children’s Services, a Christian adoption and orphan care ministry in Kentucky. In keeping with Larry’s vision, the Hurts specified they wanted boy and girl twins from Ethiopia. Lifeline relayed that it might take years to fill such a specific request, even through its West Sands Adoptions affiliate in Ethiopia. The agency had only handled twins from the country once before.

Tammy grew discouraged, as the couple didn’t receive any news for months. But Larry knew he had heard from God, and Tammy agreed to keep the faith.

Meanwhile, Larry told everyone he came in contact with through his pharmaceutical sales — physicians, internists, nurses and medical specialists — that God planned to bless his family with twins.

Soon after Harvestime deacons prayed with the Hurts about the situation in July 2011, Tammy received a phone call from a social worker saying 11-month-old twins from Ethiopia had been placed in the West Sands orphanage. Naol, the boy, and Sifen, the girl, had been born 10 months after Larry’s vision.

“I was already in love with them before we even went to see them,” says Tammy, 54.

After the Hurts completed necessary legal adoption paperwork, all seven members of the family traveled to Ethiopia in May 2012.

“We wanted the kids to experience life where their new siblings came from,” Tammy says. Several members of Harvestime donated funds to help pay for both the costly adoptions and the flights to Africa. Harvestime AG Pastor Kim Buckman commends those individuals who gave sacrificially, without receiving any tax credit, since the gifts couldn’t be donated through the church.

In Ethiopia, the Hurts met the woman who had given birth to the twins at age 18. An orphan herself, with four younger siblings, the birth mother worked for a dollar a day and knew she couldn’t provide for her babies.

“She gave them up out of love,” Tammy says. Tammy will send photos of the children to their biological mother as they grow up.

“These kids didn’t have a better alternative,” Larry says.

The Hurts have been married for 28 years. Their biological children are Sarah, 24; Molly, 23; Seth, 21; Samuel, 19; and Caleb, 17. The kids all encouraged their parents in the adoption process, helping with a fundraiser, making T-shirts, setting up a Facebook page, and blogging about the journey. The children all lived at home during the first summer of the adoption, and kept the house running as Larry and Tammy focused on attaching to their new son and daughter.

Even before Larry and Tammy had children, Doris Frenzel became a part of the family. When they worked in a group home north of Green Bay early in their marriage, the Hurts assumed legal guardianship of Frenzel. Otherwise, Frenzel, now 65, faced the rest of her days institutionalized.

Sarah served as a nanny the first year Naol and Sifen lived in Wisconsin. But Sarah went on a short-term missions trip to an orphanage in India during September 2013, leaving the lion’s share of the childrearing to stay-at-home mom Tammy. Among the original siblings, only Caleb remains in the seven-bedroom home.

“There are days when I say I am way too old for this, but the Lord reminds me He has much more for us if we step out of our comfort zone,” Tammy says.

Energetic, good-natured and impish, Naol and Sifen effortlessly cuddle up with Tammy as Mommy and Larry as Daddy. The family room is replete with various toys on one side and dozens of children’s books on the other.

Larry has become a passionate advocate for adoption.

“We explain we are compelled by God’s love to do this because God cares about orphans,” Larry says.

Now 50, Larry isn’t ruling out another adoption later. Neither is Tammy, who says her parents took care of 71 foster kids.

“I never knew who would be at the breakfast table when I grew up,” she says.

Buckman believes the Hurts have the gift of hospitality, and says the family continually hosts people overnight. He lauds the Hurts for taking on the responsibility of raising toddlers, knowing the children will still be in the home when they as parents are reaching customary retirement age.

The Hurts have consistently heard about caring for orphans from the pulpit. Buckman, 53, says he and his wife, Jenny, couldn’t have biological children, so they adopted two newborn daughters when he served as a youth pastor. Both girls had teenage birth moms from Wisconsin who gave them up for adoption.

The first baby the Buckmans adopted was born to a 16-year-old girl who accepted Jesus as her Savior at a “power team” ministry outreach Buckman had organized that featured athletes demonstrating strength skills at a public high school. Today, the Buckmans’ daughters are grown. Hannah is 21 and Alyssa is 18.

In October, Harvestime devoted an entire service in which families spoke about their experiences in adoption and foster care.

“There are four levels where someone can really make a difference,” Buckman says. “If you don’t want to foreign adopt, you can sponsor someone. If you don’t sponsor someone, you can be a foster parent. If you don’t want to be a foster parent, you can be a big brother or sister. We are called to be stewards to make a difference where we live and around the world.”

Meanwhile, Buckman says the Hurts have helped stretch his faith as a pastor in envisioning what the church can accomplish.

“They are a family that does not believe in placing limits on God,” Buckman says.

JOHN W. KENNEDY is news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel. He and his wife, Patty, who have three grown sons, just completed 11 weeks of foster care training.

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